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Aleksanteri Papers 1:2001

Aleksanteri Papers Marja Rytkönen:
Autobiographical Texts by Contemporary Russian Women


The article focuses on how contemporary Russian women represent their experience and life in the autobiographical discourse of the postperestroika period. Two main topics are raised: the re-writing of history where the discursive elements of writing are influenced by the tradition of Soviet documentary literature, and writing a woman's life where the focus of writing is more autobiographical in the Western sense of the word. In discussing the re-writing of Russian/Soviet history in three autobiographical texts I have sought to account for the position of the author as a woman through the context of writing.

It can be argued that the position of the woman author in the texts analysed provides a different perspective on Soviet history: women's experience has been considered personal, not a part of "History writing", which concentrates on significant historical events. Personal experiences provide important insight into the "other" history of the state. In the chapter "Writing a woman's life" three texts are also analysed, which all present different strategies with different aims and purposes of writing: a description of a "simple Russian woman's life", recovering the "lost" relationship to the mother through reminisences and a "feminist Bildungsroman" in the Russian context.

The texts deal with symbolic meanings of "woman" and "femininity" in representing different responses to these symbolic meanings. In the conclusion further questions concerning contemporary autobiographical writing are posed. These questions have come up when considering contemporary Russian men's autobiographical writing and the context of Russian literary space today.

Full text: Autobiographical Texts by Contemporary Russian Women (pdf)